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A few years after the release of her fourth album with Verve, a gospel-themed set of reinterpretations titled Fellowship, Lizz Wright signed to the Concord label with an eye toward concentrating on original material. The vocalist made a connection with veteran multi-instrumentalist and producer Larry Klein and recorded Freedom & Surrender with a stable backing band that included drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, percussionist Pete Korpela, bassist Dan Lutz, guitarist Dean Parks, and keyboardists Pete Kuzma and Billy Childs. For most listeners, the change of label and mostly new set of supporting musicians will seem transparent. Like Wright's previous albums, Freedom & Surrender is graceful and exacting, yet those qualities come across in a fashion that does not seem deliberate – remarkable for material that draws from folk, blues, jazz, soul, and gospel and often fuses two or more of those genres. Longtime collaborator Toshi Reagon contributes only two songs, "Freedom" and "Surrender," but they neatly begin and end the album in spirited and assured form. David Batteau and Jesse Harris separately collaborated with Wright and sometimes Klein on the writing of seven selections.
Some artists, once settled on a sound that suits them, are content simply to plough the same unimaginative furrow year after year, album after album. Whether it’s complacence, in the knowledge that their loyal fan base will continue to dip into their pockets, a lack of the talent and inspiration necessary to evolve or (in cases such as Stereophonics) both, more often than not these meat and potato acts slowly fade away into irrelevance with the passing of the years. It’s refreshing, then, to listen to Foam Island, the latest release by London-based duo Darkstar, so clearly is it the work of people willing to take risks to move their music forward.
One of the greatest recordings ever made by John Coltrane in his late years – a spare set of duets with drummer Rashied Ali, recorded in 1967, but never issued until after his death! Trane and Ali play in a free spiritualist mode, with no other accompaniment – making for a very unique album, especially for the time, and setting the tone for years of New York improvisation in the 70s. Titles include "Mars", "Venus", "Jupiter", and "Saturn".